This article looks at knife edges, edge sharpening angles, and the difference between 15 vs. 20-degree knife edges. Let’s jump headfirst into the topic without further ado.
What are Knife Sharpening Angles?
First, the edge angle is the number of degrees the bevel veers from the blade’s center. OR, the angle of a knife’s edge is the number of degrees between the knife and the honing stone.
Most knives feature slopes on both sides, meaning each side of the edge has a bevel. These knives are called double-beveled.
Some knives have only one bevel, meaning they have been honed on the single side of the blade.
That said, when we talk about the angle of the knife’s edge, we’re indeed talking about the angle at which you’re holding your knife to the sharpening tool. So regardless of whether a knife is single- or double-beveled, the nomenclature follows the single side of the edge.
A knife with a 15-degree angle means it has been sharpened to 15 degrees on each side. This creates a total angle of 30 degrees.
Likewise, a blade of 20 degrees is one that’s been sharpened to 20 degrees on each side. This creates a whole arc of 40 degrees.
How do Sharpening Angles Affect a Knife’s Performance?
For the average household chef, the specifications of the blade, such as the sharpening angle, are not of much concern. Most people buy a sharp knife on a whim without doing research, and that’s it.
Professional chefs, however, need information about knife sharpeners and angles to take their cooking to another level.
But why do knives have angles, and what purposes do different angles serve?
Remember, the smaller the angle of a knife’s edge, the sharper it is.
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American and Western knives like the WÜSTHOF 8″ Classic Chef’s Knife have curved blades and greater sharpening angles. They have a lot of heft due to thicker blades as they don’t need to cut thin slices like sushi but veggies and meats. These qualities make them durable and ideal for more laborious tasks like rough chopping harder, denser vegetables. Thus, they cut through different kinds of meat in a split second and maintain their performance for a long time.
Eastern knives have thinner, straighter blades with smaller angles to let you cut thinner slices, like the Yoshihiro Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife and the HENCKELS Classic Hollow Edge Santoku Knife.
Japanese cuisine requires more precise slicing, as in sushi, making a 15-degree Eastern knife the most suitable candidate for it. Unfortunately, thin blades are also more prone to chipping.
What should you know about knife angles when purchasing a knife?
A knife can be single-beveled or double-beveled. Conventionally, Western knives are always double-beveled, as opposed to Eastern knives, which are single-beveled. However, Eastern knives intended for the Western markets have two bevels. So, unless otherwise specified, it’s safe to assume that the knife you’re buying in the West is double-beveled.
Another thing to remember is that the lower the angle, the sharper the blade, yet less durable.
Traditional Japanese knives have a knife angle of 10 degrees, making them razor-sharp.
What is the difference Between a 15° Knife and a 20° Edge?
15 Degree Knife
Contemporary Asian knives usually have a double bevel with a 15-degree angle on both sides, giving them a total angle of 30 degrees. They are pretty slim and lightweight.
Among these double-bevel knives are Santoku and Nakiri.
Other heavier Asian knives for chopping hard vegetables and meat include the Deba and Gyutou knives. They are for heavy-duty work.
To ensure the durability of thin, 15-degree knives, manufacturers prefer rigid steel, which holds the edge for a long time, even with a thin blade. On the downside, rigidity makes these knives brittle.
Asian knives with 15-degree facets have many more types ranging from traditional to contemporary.
Traditionally, they make Japanese knives with a single-sided bevel. They’re suitable for both left-handed and right-handed people.
They have a primary facet that deflects the slices away from the blade as the knife cuts them. The Sashimi Knife is a famous example of these knives.
The backside of traditional knives has a hollow ground. They also have an extremely tiny micro-facet that isn’t even visible to the naked eye on the rear of the blade. It aids in enhancing the sharpness of the blade. These knives are thinner and should only be sharpened to one side.
Benefits of the 15-Degree Knife Angle
- Sharpening the knife at a 15-degree rather than 20 degrees makes it sharper. It’s why they’re becoming trendy in Europe.
- 15-degree sharpened knives have much less friction when slicing stuff than 20-degree knives, although sharpness is not the only reason to pick a knife.
- 15-degree sharpened knives are perfect for light work, such as paring, light slicing, or even peeling. They effortlessly slice through the skin without exerting much force. They also excel in cutting up sushi.
Cons of Getting a 15 Degree Knife
- The biggest con of 15-degree sharpened knives is that they lack durability. They have less metal support when compared to 20-degree knives. Because of this thinness, the knives don’t resist dulling for too long and may lose their sharpness.
- 15-degree knives brittle more. They’re made of rigid steel to prevent bending.
So when doing heavy work such as filleting, cutting and chopping tough meats, or even deboning, 15-degree knives could break, or the tip could chip too.
Does less durability and trouble in sharpening these 15-degree edge knives worry you? Please don’t!
At this point, the knife sharpeners can help you.
20 Degree Knife Angle
European and American knives have been designed to prepare foods according to their culture and traditions. Knives in western cuisines are usually for heavier foods such as many different types of meats and fibrous veggies. They need to be thicker, sturdier, and sharper at 20 degrees to perform such heavy-duty slicing.
Western blades are usually double-beveled, meaning we sharpen them on both sides of the blade to get a total of 40 degrees. Most of them have a thick cross-section for heavier cutting. For filleting and utility, knives with thinner cross-sections are preferable.
Benefits of a 20 Degree Knife
- 20-degree sharpened knives are more durable and retain their edge for a long time. They have more metal than 15-degree knives and hence last longer.
- Knife enthusiasts usually consider 20 degrees as the best angle. They cut well and bear force. Flexible metals are generally used to make 20-degree European knives by forgers. Therefore, they don’t break apart as easily as 15-degree knives. The flexible metal also helps them get to places where a 15-degree knife might not help.
- These knives are more suitable for heavy-duty work such as boning meat. They still cut through things like butter, so be careful!
If you want a good and durable knife, a 20-degree knife is a perfect adjustment between lasting long and sharp if you want a good and durable blade.
- The 20-degree sharpened knives are all-rounders; they can do anything in addition to being extremely durable. Therefore, these knives don’t have any problems.
- 20-degree knives are terrible when you need to slice through delicate stuff, like sushi. The reason is that the total cutting angle for a double-beveled knife with a 20-degree edge is 40 degrees.
40-degrees doesn’t sound that sharp, but it’s enough to cut through stuff. When slicing through stuff, more of the edge is in contact; hence, the wide edge causes much more friction when using a 20-degree knife than a 15-degree knife.
15 Vs. 20 Degree Knife Edge: Key Differences
Now that we have discussed 15-degree vs. 20-degree knives individually let’s compare them side by side for a clearer understanding.
When it all comes down to it, choosing the sharpening angle of the knife all depends on what you want to do with it. If you’re going to slice through stuff or make Japanese cuisine like sushi, then the 15-degree knife is preferable by us, thanks to its sharp edge.
If you want to do heavy-duty work like filleting or chopping meat, then a 20-degree blade is suitable.
Material, Flexibility, and Friction
One of the most significant differences lies in the material and its rigidity. 20-degree knives are made from softer steel, which is pretty tough. On the other hand, blacksmiths from the more rigid steel make 15-degree blades or Asian knives, though it’s brittle.
The more rigid steel of the 15-degree knife makes it more prone to chip and crack under pressure. Hence, the 20-degree blade shines in this area. The 15-degree blade is not flexible, so it can’t penetrate where the 20-degree one can easily.
The 15-degree knives have less friction and produce fine cuts that cleanly slice through everything. 20-degree knives have more friction and tear through meats, making them unrefined. Yet, 20-degree knives are also more stable and consistent.
As you can see, both types of knives are suitable in different contexts. Ultimately, your choice of knife boils down to your personal needs and preferences.
15 Degrees or 20 Degrees, How to Find your Knife Angle?
You probably already have knives at your home. You find out the sharpening angle of the blade while buying it, but maybe you don’t know the sharpening angle of your knife.
You don’t need to worry. We’ll help you find the sharpening angle.
The easiest way to find the angle of your knife is by going to a professional or seeing the product details provided by the manufacturers.
You can go to a professional and give your knife to be sharpened by them, and they’ll take care of the rest for you. Here, to save time, we’ve listed a few methods to find your knife’s ideal sharpening angle.
Let’s look at the multiple ways to find the sharpening angle of your knife:
You need a marker and a sharpening stone. It’s pretty easy to perform for beginners, and for more experienced users, you can manipulate the blade to make the angle steeper or shallower.
The way you do this is to take your knife and mark the edge with the help of a marker. Now you need to try and take off the mark on the original edge using a sharpening stone.
Another way you can find the exact angle is by using the quarter trick. To use this technique, you need to measure the width of your blade and a set of quarters. Then with the help of this chart, you find the angle.
Let’s take an example: if you measured the width of your blade to be 1¾”, and you needed seven quarters to get the angle right, then the angle of your knife is 16 degrees.
See Product Details
Another way to tell the angle is by finding out if it’s European-made or Asian, as euro knives are usually made with a 20-degree angle, and Asians are made from a 15-degree rise by forgers.
Remember that angle doesn’t always matter when it comes to sharpening. You can re-sharpen a 20-degree knife to 15 degrees and vice versa. Therefore, knowing the angle you want to sharpen your knife to is essential.
How Do You Sharpen Your Knife to 15 or 20 Degree Angles?
So let’s get these straight. Dull knives are of no use to anybody, whatever the angle. Besides having a progressively useless tool, they are also dangerous, and the blade may slip and cut you or cause any mishap.
Even professionals need whetstones to sharpen a knife. But did you know they’re of different types?
Coarse stones have large particles and remove a lot of metal. In contrast, the medium stones of #2000 grit remove less metal and are more refined. At the same time, the fine stones of #3000 grit remove a lot less metal, and we use them for polishing and refining.
The first and foremost thing you need is a whetstone of about #1000 grit. You need to submerge the whetstone in water for 5-10 minutes.
Next, choose the knife you want to sharpen. Your hands matter a lot in the sharpening of a blade.
The hand which holds the handle determines the angle of the knife, and the other hand on top of the blade picks the pressure you apply.
Careful though! Just apply pressure when dragging it back, not forward. Keep reapplying water on the whetstone.
When at the straight part of the knife, do it back and forth, but at the curve, we have to do it in a curved sliding motion. Try to keep the knife angle constant throughout.
For 15-degree knives, you need to angle it at 15 degrees; for 20-degree knives, do it at 20 degrees. You can change the angle of the knife, but if you don’t want to change, you must find the angle it was previously honed to by following the method mentioned above.
Get a 2000-grit whitestone and sharpen your knife using the method given below:
- Take your knife in one hand, and place your thumb on the yolk of the blade and your index finger on the knife’s spine. Place the knife at 45 degrees. Determine your sharpening angle and keep it angled in that position. Place two fingers on the blade’s edge to apply pressure with your other hand.
- Don’t let your knife rub on the stone and slide the knife back and forth, just as you can see in the knife sharpening video above.
But the only difference is to sharpen one side first and then switch to the other by simply switching the hand.
Here are a few knife-sharpening mistakes you must avoid:
- Don’t use back-and-forth movement while sharpening your knife, for it changes the angle to some degree. And the results can be awful. So, opt for a nice, single stroke instead.
- Sharpening wedges are genuinely helpful for beginners, but you mustn’t trust them. Once you’re trained with your angle, forget them, for they’ll slightly affect the sharpening when you move the knife toward the tip.
- Avoid sharpening your knife blades in sections with back-and-forth (push and pull) movements unless you’re a sharpening expert. IN SHORT, be kind and patient in finding your knife sharpening angle while sharpening it!
What Knife sharpening angle is the best? Our Ultimate Advice
Knife makers design knife edges in a way that the blades don’t tear through food fibers but cut through cleanly. If the angle is greater, this prevents the knife from cutting sharper cuts. Hence, a smaller angle is preferable if we require clean cutting.
As a general rule of thumb, knives with thinner angles are better, though it all depends on the use, from cutting fruits to meat, what cutting angle you’ll prefer. If you need to slice up the food finely, a lower angle is suitable, while chopping up stuff like raw squash is better done at a larger angle.
In the end, the sharpening angle all depends on your kitchen. Both cutting angles have their abilities. And hence, after learning about both, we hope you’re well informed to decide about sharpening your knife or choosing a new one.
Although it’s hard to choose your knife’s angle, picking the right one can do wonders for your ease and comfort in the kitchen: have a 15-degree knife for precise cutting and choose a 20-degree knife for heavy cuttings, e.g., chopping.